The science of climate change is well covered by scientists in their publications. Climate change research focuses more on the physical effects such as protecting the Earth’s atmosphere from a hazardous rise in temperature. Climate change has become one of the causes of droughts, floods, rise of sea level causing coastal tragedies, melting of ice, fresh water shortage, shifting climate zone, ozone depletion, loss of rain forests, biodiversity, etc. The post-Cartesian paradigm rooted in life science reveals the security implications of climate change. Industrial civilization is melting the Earth’s third largest pool of glaciers of Himalayas and Tibetan plateau that nourished South Asian civilization. The drying of headwater due to changed land use combined with climate change is also eroding the land’s capacity to support life and livelihood and risks inducing migration of people with the potential to flash local and trans-border conflicts. Warming temperature and atmospheric pollution by carbon dioxide build up, are making the monsoon rains unpredictable and affecting agriculture and health. Climate change imposes economic effects on human security and social peace.
South Asians are living in a society of increasing population and decreasing natural resources. Continuous efforts by people to satisfy their development needs are damaging pastures, forests and source of water on which they depend for their sustainable livelihoods. Vulnerable regions require high level of resource investment in adaptation measures. Excessive consumption of fossil energy, deforestation and desertification are alarming us giving us consciousness of our relations with the vital forces of nature and different orders of life—plants, insects, birds and animals linked to each other within the life’s cosmic web. It is defining an option for our common future. The recent Climate Change Summit at Cancun has left the negotiation for balancing development needs with meeting the target of emission control unresolved. How can a symbiosis of politics, economy and ecology contribute the security of our freedom, food and habitat? Can the environmental cost of production such as pollution, carbon emission and depletion of ecosystem be included in our development policy so that a quest for human security does not undermine the natural basis of our existence? Does comprehensive security become a response for South Asia?
Beyond State-Centric Security
Environmental security has become a main proposition at international conferences mobilizing resistance for ethically informed policies. The mountain regions of the Himalayas, whose environmental system and resources are very important for the densely populated Gangetic plain, are vulnerable in ecological terms. The region’s average temperature has increased by 1.2 degree Celsius and could get warmer with 2 degree Celsius by 2030. The overall monsoon rainfall indicates a decrease and low aggregation of snow in the Himalayas. This environmental change has brought four critical challenges to conventionally defined state-centric security: First, the effects of climate change transcend domestic and foreign policy boundaries of nation-states. Now security studies require planetary awareness and its linkages with various life-world and non-life sub-systems. Second, realpolitik approach to national security planning is insufficient. Our survival requires a judicious balance between the awareness of human freedom and nature’s level of tolerance to it. This means mutual cooperation and surveillance among the affected nation-states and people can stem its negative spill-over effects unleashed by the corruption of free human will. Third, risk of mutual vulnerability to climate change requires mutual security through collective action. Finally, governance of climate change—both policy formulation and implementation—entails regional and international framework beefed up by the states, non-state and transnational actors and their mutual accountability. Since environmental challenges do not care human made borders what requires for its solution is ‘comprehensive security.’ This needs the establishment of related institutions to provide early warning and monitor the international climate regime governed by environmental treaties and impose graduated sanctions for violating its standards mutually agreed upon by leaders. Future conflicts go beyond state-centric security limits if we refuse to acknowledge our systemic ties with the society, environment and future generations.